Happy Straya Day Mayyyyte *Australian accent*! Yes, it’s the most celebrated day of the year in Australia today and being a permanent resident who has lived in this marvelous country for almost five years, I thought I would write a blog post on the real life, first world struggles I face on a daily basis as a Geordie speaking human.
It’s a well-known fact that us Geordie’s have a very distinct, broad and fabulous accent. Okay, I chucked in the fabulous part myself there as a biased and extremely proud Geordie, but how many cities (and fairly small ones at that) can actually say they have their own language pretty much? Geordie dictionaries are really out there being sold in shops! Unfortunately, speaking this way in another country proves to be very difficult for these other ENGLISH-SPEAKING people to understand! The struggle is real, my friends.
I’m not calling anybody daft here but how come I understand them so easily and always have done? It’s fascinating coming from a country so small, with a million different accents that change so dramatically within a 30-minute drive, to come to Australia – a country so unbelievably huge that it is it’s own continent – and for there to be literally no variance in accent no matter how far and wide of the country you travel. They all speak the same!
In Australian’s defense, I must admit that my accent is quite thick, and although I’ve been here for a considerable number of years, I can honestly say that my accent has not softened in the slightest – thanks to regular Facetime sessions and calls to my loved ones back home. I do try and tone down certain words when talking to certain people though. I have mastered the skill of picking up the ‘I have absolutely no f**king idea what you just said’ cues, which include a blank expression, an awkward smile or fake laugh, or a “yeah nah, I don’t know..” and then they look away. By the way, it could be ‘yeah nah’ or ‘nah yeah’ – ‘yeah nah’ most often meaning no, and ‘nah yeah’ meaning yes. Eh? Exactly.
I have to say words a lot posher than I normally would. Take the number 8 for example. Now, I have learned that there is literally no word in the English dictionary in which Australian’s will use the ‘A’ sound like we do, they simply say ‘Ay’, so therefore I have to say ‘Ayt’ for the number 8. Can you imagine how stupid I feel doing this? The number 9 too. Yes, we may sound like a German disagreeing to something, ‘Nein’, but they say ‘Noyn’ and even ‘Noy’ for no! It doesn’t end at numbers either, let me tell you that for nowt…
When you say ‘Hiya!’ all cheerfully to an Australian, instead of getting a joyful ‘Hello!’ back as you would indeed expect, you receive a “good thanks, how are you?”. Basically, the Australian way of greeting one another is “how ya goin’?”. So, blend that together in one short sort of bird noise, and I suppose yes, it does sound the teeniest tiniest bit like hiya, but no, that is not what I’m saying. I then sometimes embarrassingly reply with “good thanks, how are you?” because I didn’t ask them in the first place, and they just look at me as though I’m stupid thinking ‘you just asked me that, you idiot’. I really didn’t, babes.
So, not only does the accent cause problems but the way in which I dish out Geordie words and slang willy nilly does too. The amount of times I’ve been asked what ‘canny’ means is just silly. I literally don’t know, we just say it! It can mean good, “It was a canny night last night..”, it can mean very, “it’s canny hot in here..”, it can mean nice, “aw, she’s dead canny..”. So many things! I’m thinking of getting that printed on a business card and each time someone asks me, I will just dish one out to save me the energy of trying to explain it again and again and again and again… And don’t get me started on when they ask me what ‘WEY AYE’ means, which is my car registration plate. I don’t know why we start sentences with ‘wey’ and I don’t know why we say ‘eeeeeee’ all the time either. I just do.
Another annoying thing is when people say “Oooh, that’s a lovely Irish accent!”. At this point I just stare at them and after five years of repeating myself, I let out a huge sigh and reply “No it’s not, I’m a Geordie.”, and what’s funny is, more often than not, they will say “Oh, does that mean you are from Newcastle?”. Yes Bruce, it means exactly that – not bloody Ireland!
Ooh, and one more thing, never ever say to an Aussie “you alright?”. We might use it as an innocent way of saying hello to someone in England (or ‘Alreet’ in Newcastle), but if you say it to somebody here, there’s a chance they will be offended and bite back with a “yeah, why, what have you heard?” or somewhere along those lines. They just don’t get it! But then say ‘Hiya’ and they will think you’re saying something completely different anyway! It’s a lose lose situation.
Despite the daily struggles I face with communication, speaking with a Geordie accent actually works in my favour. Aussies love to take the piss out of me, and I love to take the piss out of them right back – it’s a great base for some hilarious backhanded banter (not suitable for the sensitive types btw) and I have met some great people and friends through regular griefing sessions. The older ones will often tell me that I have a beautiful accent too, which I must admit does make me feel good because I’m thinking ‘Really? Beautiful?’, but I take the compliment anyway. It’s also a great conversation starter, especially when Sheila asks me where I am from and then proceeds to tell me about the time she travelled Europe (but didn’t even go anywhere near Newcastle and sometimes even England), but they think Europe is all the same anyway.
Wey, there you go. I hope you had a canny read and can take some canny helpful tips away from this if you’re planning a trip Doon Unda. Just divn’t be coming all guns blazing and taakin’ like Jimmy Nail after a couple of pints of Foster’s in the local social club like me Dad did in 2016…because he did sound stupid.